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Articles of 2005

O’Neil Bell Ready to Take On Dale Brown, Cruiserweight Division

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For the first time in a long time, there is plenty to look forward to in the cruiserweight division. With the heavyweight division currently in disarray, fighters are now having second thoughts about surpassing the 200 lb. weight limit in favor of heavyweight dollars. Unlike the heavyweight division, the cruiserweights have a true consensus leader to aim for in Jean-Marc Mormeck, who presently owns the WBA and WBC belts.

The third major belt – the IBF title – is currently vacant, but that will be taken care of this Friday night in Florida. While the path which led to this fight is anything but cut and dry, O’Neil “Give ‘Em Hell” Bell plans to clear things up in a hurry.

“This fight has definitely been a long time in the making, no doubt,” says Bell, who takes on “Cowboy” Dale Brown in the ESPN2 main event this week (Friday, 8PM ET, live from the Seminole Hard Rock Casino in Hollywood, FL). “I’ve been waiting in line for two years, but at least I know my shot is coming at the perfect time.”

The timing is key for a number of reasons. For starters, he takes on a 33-year-old Brown with over 280 fights between the amateurs and pros. Though able to avoid wear-and-tear throughout his ten year career, Dale has also shown an inability to get the job done at the top level. All three of his losses (33-3-1, 21 KOs overall) have been of the knockout variety against former and present cruiserweight champs (Vasiliy Jirov, Wayne Braithwaite and Jean-Marc Mormeck).

Brown is no walk in the park, but figures to be much less of a threat than Kelvin Davis would have posed three months ago. Bell and Davis were to square off for Kelvin’s IBF title in the co-feature to Zab Judah-Cory Spinks II in St. Louis on Showtime. Like the main event, Bell and Davis had plenty of unfinished business. The two squared off in 2003 in an IBF Cruiserweight Title Elimination Bout. Ahead on two of the three cards heading into the eleventh round, Bell took out Davis courtesy of a knockdown and a follow up barrage, prompting referee Bill Marshall to halt the bout a minute into the round.

Despite the win, all that was eliminated in the end was Bell’s mandatory ranking.

Upon further review on the heels of a protest from Davis’ camp, the IBF declared that Bell clipped Davis while on the canvas. The referee missed the call (as did many other viewers, including this reporter), so the IBF offered an alternative: sanction a rematch, with the winner to fight

Bell’s camp found the ruling to be ridiculous, and turned down the rematch, believing that they could square away matters after fighting for the title. The IBF was having none of it. The sanctioning body removed Bell from the top spot and proceeding with yet another eliminator between Davis and Louis Azille. Bell reluctantly moved on, taking out his frustrations on Derrick Harmon in a December 2003 ESPN2 telecast. A vicious eighth round knockout netted Bell the NABF title and what he believed to be a mandatory ranking with then-WBC champ Wayne Braithwaite.

But the powers that be apparently had other plans.

“I’m saying, I couldn’t catch a break. I knocked out Davis for the right to fight for the IBF title. I then knock out (Harmon) to fight for Big Truck’s title. Yet when 2004 rolls around, everyone EXCEPT me is fighting for a title. But I knew that my time would come, so I stayed busy outside the ring, and kept my mind off of boxing and its politics for a minute.”

With only one fight in 2004, Bell had plenty of spare time on his hands. Where most fighters fall out of shape and into trouble under such circumstances, Bell showed a different side than the “Give ‘Em Hell” tagline would suggest.

Hooking up with reputable sports agent Glenn Toby, Bell discovered life after and besides boxing immediately. Working his magic instantaneously, Toby hooked up O’Neil with sponsors and with his “Book Bank Foundation.” The transition from one-hitter quitter to humble spokesperson was a smooth one; for Bell it’s as simple as flipping a switch.

“All fight fans get to see of me is the violent cat that’s blasting out contenders left and right,” says Bell. “But what they’ve yet to see is the real O’Neil Bell. I save my aggression for the ring. Outside the ropes, I’m as cool and calm as can be.”

Toby attributes Bell’s attitude to upbringing, and never forgetting his roots.

“When I first met O’Neil, I saw a lot of potential with minimal work”, recalls Toby. “Most guys have potential, but there’s a lot of molding and coaching involved. But O’Neil is a natural. He doesn’t walk around town with a busload of hanger-ons. He’s not out disrespecting women and harming his body any. He was the perfect spokesman for my organization; well-mannered, articulate, and born for success.”

One of the major goals of the Book Bank Foundation is “to produce individuals that will make positive contributions towards the growth of our society and become successful law-abiding individuals.” The idea is to encourage children to read more, and to treat education as a necessity rather than a choice. Such is the way Bell conducts his life, whether it’s sharpening his business skills, or perfecting his fight game.

“The key to my success is simple; always have peace of mind. I don’t walk around looking to kill people, not even an opponent I strongly dislike. It’s easy to be humble when you’re surrounded by good humble people. Other cats walk around with large entourages and whatnot. My crew consists of Glenn, my 70-year old track coach, and my 76-year old trainer. Through each of them, I gain wisdom, as I’m able to learn and appreciate everything they’ve been through. The opportunity is golden.”

So is his future, even if it means enduring potholes and speed bumps on the way to the top.

Ending a nine-month layoff, Bell was invited to Don King’s Labor Day weekend fight card in Las Vegas last September. A second round knockout of Ezra Sellers earned him a mandatory ranking for the third time in as many fights. This time, it would stick, as Bell was finally set to rematch Davis, who had defeated Sellers four months prior to win the vacant IBF crown.

As mentioned earlier, the rematch was set for February 5, with the duo to meet in St. Louis. Once again, Davis’ camp managed to make things difficult for Bell.

Davis stunned the boxing world by filing for bankruptcy late in 2004. The move wound up costing Davis his title, as the courts determined all existing contracts were to become null and void. The ruling terminated his contract with promoter Don King. It also kayoed the bout agreement with Bell. When a new agreement was offered a few weeks before the fight, Davis was the only one unhappy with the new terms .The IBF was unhappy with Davis’ decision and elected to strip him of his title for failure to satisfy his mandatory defense.

Bell knew that his shot would eventually come, but was disappointed at what he viewed as a golden opportunity to shine.

“I can’t lie,” admits Bell, “I’d have much rather fought Davis in front of 22,000 fans on Showtime, then to be fighting for considerably less money in front of a smaller crowd on ESPN2. That part disappointed me. I can’t lie.”

What hurt more was the fact that his fans would be let down as well.

“Here’s what separates O’Neil from the rest of the pack,” explains Toby. “Under those circumstances, most fighters would grab their ball and storm off the court in a huff. O’Neil chose to stay in St. Louis, and reached out to the fans. He wanted to make sure that they were not disappointed by the sudden cancellation. Some were, but were appreciative of the fact that O’Neil elected to stay in town and carry himself as a proud champion should. It’s proof that the belt does not make the man a champion, but the man that lends credence to the belt.”

True, though holding some hardware is a key selling point in the cruiserweight division. The IBF belt would be the missing piece of the puzzle in complete unification within the weight class, which is why Bell has no reservations about returning to ESPN2.

“True, it’s not Showtime. But hey, Dale Brown has the courage to follow through on his word and fight me for the title. I want to help restore credibility in this division. People care less and less about today’s heavyweights, so the faster we can get an undisputed champion, the more power to us. Once I collect the IBF belt on Friday, I got my eye on Mormeck and his two belts.”

What about an eventual rematch with Davis?

“Let him work his way back through the ranks. That’s what he made me do, and even after I did all that, he still went ahead and avoided me. If he can work his way back to the #1 spot, then hell yeah, we can do this. Until then, he’s not on my radar.”

He may wind up back on his radar before the weekend is out. Don King just announced that Davis will be fighting this weekend on the undercard of the Lamon Brewster-Andrew Golota show in Chicago. Davis will be facing Guillermo Jones in a cruiserweight elimination bout. The winner will face … you guessed it: the winner of Bell-Brown.

Bell’s not concerned about facing Davis next. What piques his interest is how Davis wound up back with the promoter from whom he was looking to escape just three months ago.

“That why I don’t get how people could even question if he was ducking me,” exclaims Bell. “C’mon – why would someone file for bankruptcy, give up his title and a chance to avenge an earlier loss, and then return belt less to the promoter with whom he had beef in the first place? The answer: because you want to get out of a fight against someone you know you can’t beat.”

Time will tell if Bell is correct in his assessment. In the meantime, he focuses on the present.

“With Brown, I see a cat who’s beaten the rest, but falls short against the best,” suggests Bell. “He’s more of a boxer, doesn’t possess a lot of power. My plan is simply to outbox the boxer, and let the knockout come as it may. People see me as a straight power cat, but I want to prove to people just how diverse I can be. I can crack, no doubt, but I’m definitely of the boxer-puncher mode. Brown will see that, and see some things he’s never seen before.”

That’s quite a statement; Brown’s three losses have come against three of the best cruiserweights in at least the last ten years. Vasiliy Jirov stopped Brown in ten rounds on the Felix Trinidad-Oscar de la Hoya PPV undercard in 1999. Brown gave a great account of himself before succumbing to Jirov’s body attack late in the fight.

A year later, Braithwaite stopped Brown in eight rounds, a feat that Mormeck would match two years later in his first defense of the WBA title. The loss was Brown’s last, as he has rattled off five straight wins since then. At age thirty-three, Brown views this third world title shot as possibly his last, with hopes that the third time will be a charm. Bell believes he will prove only half of that statement to be true after Friday night.

“I know that Dale will be looking at this fight as a last-chance opportunity. My job is to make sure that he’s right – and also unsuccessful at the end. It’s nothing personal. I respect his game and his work ethic. But I’ve been waiting two years for my shot. I’ve worked too hard to let it end any other way. So long as he brings it, then expect some magic on May 20. It will be explosive, but it will be my time in the end.”

And a new beginning for the cruiserweight division.

Articles of 2005

In Boxing News: Floyd Mayweather An All-Time Great, Valuev & More

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A Shot of Boxing on the Last Day of the Year

The Guardian reports that talks have already taken place between Nicolay Valuev‘s co-promoters – Don King and Wilfried Sauerland – and Danny Williams‘ promoter Frank Warren for Nicolay Valuev to face Danny Williams. I’d suggest Danny Williams needs to worry about Matt Skelton (who Williams is reportedly scheduled to fight in February) before he entertains notions of facing the Beast From The East.

The Mirror in the UK looks forward to a big year in boxing for 2006. The Mirror considers what the future might bring for Joe Calzaghe, Amir Khan and Ricky Hatton, among others.

The Parksville Qualicum News has an interesting column on the travails of former Canadian Super Middleweight title holder Mark Woolnough. Woolnough’s career turned controversial – as widely reported in the Canadian press – at the beginning of this year when Woolnough and four other men were charged with manslaughter and assault after a fight outside a Parksville nightclub. The case returns to court next month. It’s an interesting read, as Woolnough is still looking to the future with hope.

Our own Marc Lichtenfeld provides plenty of food for thought with his Top Ten Wish List for boxing in the New Year. There’s plenty of good stuff here, but what really jumped out for me is Lichtenfeld’s opinion that a win over Zab Judah could have Floyd Mayweather knocking on the door of all-time great status. Seems to me this might be jumping the gun a little. Or is Marc right? Will it soon be time to call Floyd Mayweather Jr. an all-time great?

(More Boxing News Links at TheSweetScience.com)

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Articles of 2005

ShoBox Friday Night Fights

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Hot bantamweight prospect Raul “The Cobra” Martinez heads back to Chicago next Friday night as he is featured in the co-main event of SHOBOX “THE NEW GENERATION,” an action packed evening of professional boxing presented by Dominic Pesoli’s 8 Count Productions,’ HOME OF THE BEST IN CHICAGO BOXING, Kathy Duva’s Main Events Inc., along with Miller Lite and TCF Bank.

The two-time national amateur champion sporting a perfect 12-0 record with 9 knockouts, six of which have come in the first round,  will take on Colombian Andres “Andy Boy” Ledesma, 13-1 (8 KOs) in a scheduled eight round bout.

Speaking after a training session at his home gym in Georgetown, Texas, Martinez said, “I’m truly looking forward to returning to Chicago. The fans were terrific in September, they were very supportive from the start of the fight,” an internationally televised first round knockout of Miguel Martinez on September 16th at the Aragon Ballroom.

Regarding his upcoming fight with Ledesma, “The Cobra” said, “I haven’t seen him fight, although I understand he’s fought at higher weights and will be naturally bigger than me. I’ve had great training for this fight and feel very confident. I really haven’t left the gym in months, just taking off Sunday’s and even then I get my running in. My thinking is that fights are won in the gym and complete preparation is the key.”

When asked about his being mentioned by Dan Rafael, ESPN’s boxing writer as one of the top prospect’s in the boxing world the 23-year-old San Antonio native said, ‘It’s a great compliment, but I still have much work to do. I want to be a champion for Main Events like Fernando Vargas and Arturo Gatti. But like Fernando said while he was in town, ‘be patient, work hard and your time will come.’”

Finishing the conversation, Martinez said, “I’m looking forward to starting out this year with a bang. I might have a couple less fights than the seven I had in 2005, but I’m looking to stepping up the competition, move up to ten-rounders and climb in the rankings.”

Headlining the evening is a ten-round welterweight showdown between boxing’s hottest prospect, unbeaten Joel Julio of Monteria, Columbia, and Ugandan native Roberto “The Doctor” Kamya. Julio, turning 21 years old the day before the fight, is 25-0 with 22 knockouts, twelve of which have come in the first two rounds. Kamya, now fighting out of West Palm Beach, Florida is 15-5 with four knockouts.

Tickets, starting at $30, are on sale in advance by calling 312-226-5800. Cicero Stadium is located at 1909 S. Laramie, at the corner of 19th and Laramie, just ten minutes south of the Eisenhower Expressway and ten minutes north of the Stevenson Expressway. Doors for this evening will open at 6pm with the first bell at 7pm.

The full bout lineup for the evening is:

Joel Julio vs. Roberto Kamya, ten rounds, welterweights

Raul Martinez vs. Andres Ledesma, eight rounds, bantamweights

Miguel Hernandez vs. Butch Hajicek, eight rounds, middleweights

David Pareja vs. Derek Andrews, eight rounds, light heavyweights

Mike Gonzales vs. Tony Kinney, four rounds, lightweights

Omar Reyes vs. Luis Navarro, five rounds, featherweights

Reynaldo Reyes vs. Ricardo Swift, four rounds, middleweights

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Articles of 2005

Pick ‘Em: Plenty of Big Upcoming Fights in ’06

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Here’s the early call on many top matches scheduled for the first half of 2006: Happy New Year!

As the new calendar dawns, there are already a considerable amount of premium bouts on the horizon. Things don’t look to be bogged down by undetermined championships next year. In many cases the scheduled face-offs involve the best fighters in the division, or at least close enough for general bragging rights. If anybody else with proper qualifications signs up to force the issue, all the better.

It can be argued that some pairings could have taken place within a more optimal timeframe, or that some headliners carry distracting baggage, but there are certainly enough heavy hitters on deck. That nobody can deny.

It doesn’t matter whether one considers the proverbial glass half empty or half full; there’s still the same amount of juice in the vessel. It’s nice to know that even with a high number of cancellations, there will still be plenty of important contenders on tap.

With elite fighters in weight divisions from top to bottom on the agenda, it’s an equivalent to what fans in more mainstream sports expect in a consistent championship format.

Baseball fans can almost always count on a World Series. Some hoops fanatics say too much attention to playoffs distracts unmotivated NBA teams during their regular season. In college, they project Sweet Sixteens. Football fans know there’s always a Super Bowl ahead to raise advertising dollars and test the USA’s halftime morals.

So too, there is method in boxing’s current madness.

The midnight crystal ball hasn’t even been unveiled in Times Square and there are already a number of potential thrillers scheduled. Most feature contrasting personalities that almost guarantee going along for the ride will be worthwhile. Any subsequent drops will probably be cheered.

Don King jumps right out of the auld lang gate with a January 7th Showtime card featuring Zab Judah against Carlos Baldomir and Jean-Marc Mormeck in a cruiserweight unification against O’Neil Bell.

It will be the upset of the year, bar none, if Baldomir can tip the applecart before Judah gets to his scheduled super-showdown with Floyd Mayweather Jr. Meanwhile, Mormeck is emerging and should keep on rolling against Bell, who can expose him if he’s not for real.

The proverbial Big Bang starts with a January 21st rematch of one of the finest fights of ‘05, when Erik Morales goes against Manny Pacquaio for the second time on HBO pay per view. The fact that Morales was upset by Zahir Raheem after beating Pacquaio was no real loss in box-office luster. Artful Raheem will get a spot on the undercard and hope his patience is rewarded.

Everyone figures Morales and Pacquaio will pick up where they left off. Like the first time, the rematch is a pick’em contest. Management distractions and glove restrictions cited as Pacquaio’s previous problems won’t matter this time. The two are very evenly matched and their styles will make for another whapathon. It could come down to corners, where Freddie Roach gets the edge since Morales will have a new trainer for the first time since replacing his father after the Raheem lesson.

February features four of the game’s most enduring attractions, in a pair of crucial matchups.

First up, Showtime presents the Jose Luis Castillo – Diego Corrales tiebreaker from El Paso on Feb 4th. This is another pick ‘em pair, barring any sideshow. In boxing that disclaimer may be a stretch, since the sideshow is part of the act and the charm.

As far as action inside the strands goes, every round these guys have fought has been great. There’s no reason to think that pattern won’t continue. Regarding the result, Castillo keeps the pressure on as he did in the second fight, but he’ll walk into trouble from a more reserved Corrales. We still don’t know which coin to flip.

February also holds a better late than never affair between two perennial favorites as Shane Mosley collides with Fernando Vargas on the 25th.  This fight could lead to a winning ticket in the Golden Boy sweepstakes for a fall bonanza against Oscar De La Hoya.

Vargas has been in tougher recently, based on comparable strength of opposition stats, but he’s seen little action. What weight they enter the ring at may have a lot to do with the result. If Vargas has to struggle at the scale, Mosley might have the battle in the bag after round nine.

It’s hard to imagine Mosley getting stopped early, but Vargas doesn’t have to hurt him, he just has to knock him down three times. With natural size, he may be able to do just that, but Mosley would have to box uncharacteristically flat.

Unless Mosley decides to heed the crowd, the most likely scenario is that Shane plays it safe, picks a few shots, and stays away enough to capture a comfortable, dull decision. An unbowed Vargas maintains his fan base but not his bettors.

March both comes in and goes out as a lion.

On March 4th Joe Calzaghe welcomes Jeff Lacy to Manchester UK for what may be the biggest blowout of the headlining bunch. Calzaghe gets the chance to prove his considerable home-based reputation once and for all, but if Lacy creams him as we expect, that glossy record will be severely tarnished.

All Calzaghe has to do is make a respectable stand, but that’s no small task against the rising Lacy. A motivated Calzaghe, songs of England ringing in his ears, could pull a big surprise if he can exploit Lacy’s relatively limited technical development, but that’s a longshot indeed.

It looks like Lacy can get by on power alone. He could soon emerge as a pound-for-pound leader. Old Joe’s hometown advantage will last about two left hooks.

March 11th has the Ides of history to beware for at least one old lion, with farewell (we’ll see) fireworks featuring Roy Jones Jr. against Bernard Hopkins. Less than two years ago they were considered untouchable all time greats. Now between them they’ve lost five in a row.

This goodbye fight is contracted at light heavyweight, for what seems like an oldies night. Hopkins is the senior at age 41 to Jones’s 37, but Roy seems more the grandpa figure, last seen hanging on against Antonio Tarver. Youth, as it were here, will prevail.

This bout was signed quickly as each principal, usually sticklers for favorable contract clauses, agreed to parity in a demonstration of businessman first and fighter second. They may both expect easy marks. How much the boys have left by the time they get down to business remains to be seen. The history books will show this as a climactic career bout between Hall of Famers.

At 175 pounds, Hopkins may be in for rude awakening. Jones may have been more thoroughly outfought recently, but he was rumbling with bigger, tougher men than Jermain Taylor or Howard Eastman. Respectable as he is, Taylor still falls short of the level of Tarver, at least for now. The difference is still fifteen pounds less pop.

It will be quite a feat if Hopkins can stay in the fight, even at Jones’s advanced age. Our stars point to Jones winning in overwhelming fashion.

On March 18th, James Toney meets Hasim Rahman in another pairing of seasoned war-horses.

Toney and Rahman already had their introductions, when they brawled in Mexico during a WBC gathering to bestow Rahman’s new belt. Between formalities, Toney got married, which could bring up the old questions about carnal training.

Let’s hope when they meet in the ring, they restore some of the fire missing from the heavyweights in ‘05.  Toney might have an edge in recent form, but Rahman shows fine tuning he previously lacked. The winner might get newly “crowned’ Nicolai Valuev, an easy payday outside Germany.

Rahman could be the heavyweight that finally makes Toney look like a blown up middleweight. But anything less than a top effort will probably lead to embarrassing night for the Rock and give Toney solid claim to being the true heavyweight champ.

This might not be the most artful fight of the new season, but it could well be the most grueling, and the closest. He who’s faced the better big boys gets the nod. Advantage Rahman.

March 25 features Marco Antonio Barrera, probably the strongest overall claimant to 130 pound honors. The likely opponent is said to be always tough Jesus Chavez.

Chavez seemed rejuvenated when he met Leavander Johnson, but Johnson’s tragic death may have taken some of the steam out of thoughtful Chavez, said to have received Johnson’s family blessing to continue in Leavander’s name. That could mean a lot of inspiration. Either way, if he does meet Chavez, who hung tough with one arm against Erik Morales, Barrera won’t get any slack. The Fates say Chavez, whose wife recently served in Iraq, is a live, live underdog.

Another clash to be King of the Hill finds Floyd Mayweather Jr, arguably the game’s finest practitioner, bumping heads with Zab Judah, one of very few boxers who rivals Mayweather in speed, skills, and brashness.

Their hoedown, scheduled for April 8th, is one of the top pound-for-pound pairings in recent years. Judah will need a career best performance to have a chance of victory. That’s not to say he can’t pull it off, but currently Mayweather is in a different galaxy in terms of punching power. Slow-motion replays may be the only way to follow the flying fists once these two whirlwinds unload.

Mayweather should be around a 4-1 favorite. Judah is good enough to make taking the odds an attractive proposition, since that’s probably as good of odds as one is likely to see on Floyd for a while. Mayweather will stop Judah in his tracks.

The first half of next year is set to conclude with the star power of Oscar De La Hoya, probably against noteworthy foil Ricardo Mayorga on May 6. There could be some snags before a contract is finalized, but if it comes off count on Mayorga for promotional sound bite nastiness. One of the questions is whether or not he’ll be able to get under Oscar’s skin, and it might actually be entertaining to see the classy, model perfect De La Hoya show he’s human and freak out against the Nicaraguan maniac.

Mayorga may have burnt his best bridges already. De La Hoya has not only the boxing skill to negate Mayorga’s offense, but enough power to end it early. If Mayorga rushes in and causes a cut, De La Hoya might get ruffled enough to duck into defense and Mayorga could get a decision that goes to the cards after six rounds or so. It will be wild for as long as it lasts.

Pro boxing, like many sports, had its share of problems during 2005, but there were also many positives. Most notably, as usual, was superior and inspiring action inside the strands. Unless there’s a mass freeze-up at the top, early 2006 figures to see decisive interaction among many well-known fighters.

If even fifty per cent of the aforementioned pairings come to fruition, it’s a strong likelihood the upcoming year has at least one very positive half. Arturo Gatti, Miguel Cotto, Antonio Margarito, Brian Viloria, and Shannon Briggs, to name a few, are also on deck. No matter how you chose to look at or measure mass qualities, there’s still just as much good to be seen.

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